View Full Version : Tailwheel Trainers

02-23-2012, 11:10 PM

I'm planning on starting my flight lessons this spring, not long after I get my Sonex inspected. Yup, I'll have an airplane ready to fly, but won't be able to fly it. Since it's a taildragger, I plan to take all, or nearly all of my lessons in taildraggers to get my Sport Pilot ticket. I found out today that Falcon insurance would want at least 25 hours of taildragger time before insuring me in my plane, which would work out just fine. So below is my short list of airplanes, instructors, and airports.

This plane is owned by a father/son CFI team that operates out of their own grass strip, 20 miles north of me. They come fairly well recommended. I'll find out more later, but at one point, the plane had no electrical system. I know that's permissible, but it wouldn't allow me to get any radio training or complete my sport pilot in it. Hopefully it'll have had that added by now. Otherwise it may be good for the first few hours only.

C150 Texas TD
This is at the local towered airport, 7 miles away, run by a flight school. I've had a couple people recommend the CFI who would teach in this. The 150 is not an LSA, so I'd have to find one to solo and take my check ride in.

Luscombe 8A-F
This is at a non-towered airport 30 miles south of me. The CFI is the owner of what I think is a one-man flight school and rental service.

I'm gonna assume the Cub has a radio, otherwise it's a not a contender. With a radio in the Cub, the 150 goes to the bottom of this list, cuz I'd have to find an LSA and another CFI to finish the Sport Pilot program. And the airport is towered, so I'd think that might cut down on how fast I'd be able to run through the pattern. Especially compared to the non-towered airport to the south and grass strip to the north.

My plan is to meet with the CFI's for the PA11 and Luscombe. As long as they aren't Yankee fans, I'll talk things over with them and maybe take an intro flight before negotiating terms.

I'll appreciate your feedback.


02-24-2012, 06:23 AM
I'm gonna assume the Cub has a radio, otherwise it's a not a contender. With a radio in the Cub, the 150 goes to the bottom of this lis

What about using a handheld radio?

02-24-2012, 10:49 AM
Lots of non-electrical system aircraft use radios, and they are very easily added. A handheld radio mounted inside the airplane with coax cable to an external whip antennae works as well as any other setup as long as you have a shielded ignition harness. Mount an intercom in the plane so you can hear the radio through your headset and also talk to your passengers, or first, your instructor. Everything runs on batteries. If the spark plugs don't have a shielded harness, reception and transmission quality will be diminished, but it will still work. Lack of existing radio should not be a determining factor in the plane you buy.

Bill Greenwood
02-24-2012, 10:52 AM
"Radio training" is a very small part of learning to fly. What radio did Lindberg talk on when he went to Paris? You can learn what to say and hear on the radio very easily, get a av band scanner or small handheld and listen to nearby tower and pilots. Just be logical, tell whoever you call your type and N number, where you are, and what you want to do( ie taxi, land, etc.), and expect some logic in the reply. It can also help to get a short tape from King schools, etc on radio use. It is not a big deal.
You can easily use a handheld, (Sportys sells a good one) in a Cub if there is an external antanea.

I'd much rather learn in the Cub than any C-150, I have not flown a Luscomb. And you will be learning to actually fly , even if you can't get the Oprah show on your glass panel.By the way, the Cub can do some basic acro too, when and if you get to that point.
The quality of the instructor is the big thing and how he treats you. Are you just a $ sign to him or does he really care if you learn to fly?

Good luck, go do it and enjoy it.

02-24-2012, 12:04 PM
One of the advantages of the Sport Pilot certificate is that no radio training is required. You will be better off to learn to fly first. Get the sport pilot certificate first then go for the radio endorsement. You will get more flight experiance, T.O. and Landings or air work, per hour at the uncontroled field. The exception would be if you expect to base your craft at a high trafic controled field. Even then that training can be accomplished after the Sport Pilot certificate and the airplane does not need to be a Light Sport. That would be a good opertunity to expand your horrizon by getting some time in the "Heavy Metal". Have fun and be safe. All your options listed are reasonable.

02-24-2012, 01:54 PM
Why cant you use your plane you built to train in once its certified? is there some regulation against it? If not, that would be your best bet because you get to learn in what you fly, not have to re-adequate your self to your plane once you get your license.

02-24-2012, 02:20 PM
Why cant you use your plane you built to train in once its certified? is there some regulation against it? If not, that would be your best bet because you get to learn in what you fly, not have to re-adequate your self to your plane once you get your license.

Perfectly fine to receive flight instruction and learn to fly in your own experimental, but the 40 hour Phase 1 time would need to be flown off before the airplane can legally carry a second occupant (CFI). You'll never convince the FAA that a Sonex requires a "crewmember". :-) Since the builder would not be qualified to fly off the Phase 1 time, he would have to find someone else willing to do it, or pay someone. 40 hrs is a good chunk of time. That's probably the biggest ostacle, but it could be done. He'd also need to find a CFI willing to work with him in the Sonex, which is a fairly uncommon airplane, even though their handling is very straightforward. Another question would be how suitable the Sonex would be for primary flight training. I can't comment much about that. But trainers tend to take some abuse, and some folks may want to get past that stage in an airplane they don't have so much sweat equity in.

02-24-2012, 06:12 PM
Thanks for the input, guys :-)

I had originally built my plane with a handheld and external antenna. It worked fine, but I boogered up the used intercom, so decided to plunk down some change and get a brand new com radio with integral intercom. Even the stub portable antenna would prolly work fine. So I can see ,as has been pointed out, that I shouldn't worry about the radio part.

Yes, my Sonex needs to be soloed for 40 hours. I plan to have others do this for me. Even if it's ready for dual (after 40 hours), I wouldn't go up in it as a student pilot until I've gotten my hard landings and ground loops out of my system. I'm guessing 15 hours or so in a rental, then possibly the rest in the Sonex.

02-25-2012, 08:17 PM
Luscombe 8F isn't LSA. Something to consider.Dave

02-25-2012, 09:07 PM
Yes, but the CFI said it was definitely LSA. He called it an 8A-F. But you make a good point, namely that I otta make sure it is an LSA.

02-26-2012, 06:31 AM
Anything more than a 65 HP engineTakes it out of LSA because the way the Luscombe Type certificateWas set up. Delightful airplanes, I had a 8A with dual wing tanks.I have a 85 HP Vagabond now, again a fun little airplane.Dave

02-26-2012, 08:49 AM
Think he said it has an O-200 in it.

I also have some questions about the requirements and program for the sport pilot, which I'll post in a separate thread.

03-04-2012, 07:05 PM
I'd double check with the insurance company about the specific requirements for the 25 hours. I think they mean 'in type' which means a low wing, 'high speed' lsa. So you'd want to forget about the high wing models you're considering and find a low wing tailwheel rigged plane. Otherwise, you'd simply have to start over again with the 25 hours, or better yet, do your training with an experience sonex pilot who's willing to use your plane. And, there are DPE's out there who will do flight tests in experimental aircraft. If you'd like to learn more about that, please give me a call or private email.

Good luck, David

04-23-2012, 09:40 PM
Actually I think the best tailwheel trainer ever is a B model Taylorcraft! In this case I would go with the PA-11 or the Luscombe or both. You will probably want to get a handheld radio anyway. I have been using a handheld as the only radio in my Stinson Reliant for years. I just plug it into an outside antenna and it works better than most inexpensive panel mount radios. I just clip it onto the upholstery next to me so I can easily reach it to change frequencies, etc.

The EAA has published a list of all the certified aircraft that meet the LSA requirements and can be flown by LSA pilots. No certified aircraft is an LSA. They remain certified aircraft. They just meet the requirements for an airplane that can be flown with an LSA license. Or for a Private license with a drivers license for a medical.
As far as I know the only certified airplane with a nosewheel and a starter that meets that requirement is the early Ercoupe. The later coupes, cubs, luscombes, etc., all have problems with the gross weight limitation. There is a note too that says "if the airplane was ever certified as a three place" it can never be eligible even if it now only has two seats! You might want to check that list. For example, a Luscombe 8A is eligible. a Luscombe 8F , I think, is not. Check the list.

04-26-2012, 11:03 AM
If you need someone to fly the Phase 1 flight test we should talk. I am a CFI with flight test experience and will be in Renton, WA this summer. Once again, your training does not need to be in a LSA or LSA equivalent. Only the Sport Pilot Practical Test flight requires a Light Sport eligible airplane. It can even be a nose wheel aircraft. You are correct in wanting to learn in an airplane other than your new Sonex. However, you should still get supplemental training in it. Also, you should not rule it out completely.

04-26-2012, 05:52 PM
Thanks for the replies, guys. And sent you a PM jedi.

Alot has happened in the last couple months. Got my AWC a couple weeks ago and hauled the plane down 30 miles down to Skagit in a 6x12 Uhaul trailer. I met a fantastic guy in the Burlington EAA, who helped do the w/b in my backyard, and agreed to do the initial flight plus most of the phase I, if not all of it. He also came recommended for doing this, so I feel pretty comfortable with his skills, especially since friend with a flying Sonex gave him a couple hours of dual (which also satisfied the insurance company) and said he'd do just fine with my plane. First flight will be within a week.

So I'll soon have my plane merrily on its way to Phase II and I'll turn my attention back to primary flight instruction. To recap and update the rental plane and CFI situation, there were two LSA's more or less locally, one a Luscomb 8 and another a PA11. The Luscomb won't work (issues with maintenance) and the CFI for the PA11 decided he won't teach primary in his plane. I did go down to Arlington, 50 miles south of me, where a very small flight school has a J-3.

I also called up and talked with the CFI for the C-150 taildragger that I'd mentioned earlier, which is in town. As jedi and maybe others pointed out, I only need to take the checkride in an LSA if I'm gonna be a sport pilot. My plans now are to checkout the 150 and CFI and if things go well, start instruction in it. I'd start out without a medical until it's time to solo. At that point, I could get my medical and continue in the 150, or go down to Arlington and continue training in the J-3, which would take a little transition time. Staying local and soloing in the 150 sounds like the best option, saving time and money ($20/hr cheaper here for instruction, $20/hr cheaper for rental, plus no travel expenses). Come time for the sport pilot checkride, I'd get transitioned into that J-3 in Arlington, or even a trigear someplace.

Insurance. Falcon has quoted me a rate for my test pilot in my plane. $35k hull, $1MM liability. But getting me insured in it after the fly-off is another story. Underwriter has asked for 10 hrs with a CFI. This means I'd have my test pilot give transition training to the CFI, who in turn would then do the same to me. I'm hoping the underwriter will bend a little on this and allow transition training for me via my test pilot and not a CFI. If that fails, I'd see if they'd relax the restrictions if I dropped the hull coverage and went with just liability. I plan to drop the hull coverage at some point anyway, but after I get comfortable flying my plane, hopefully in a year or less.

04-26-2012, 07:28 PM
My advice is this
1. Which of these has a wing loading and power loading most similar to the Sonex as you have configured it?
2. Pick the aircraft most like your Sonex with regards to these factors (to minimize the "learning curve" once you get the OK to go back) and then still go and build some time on the others just for the experience with the various types.

Best of luck and I hope this helps.

What radio did Lindberg talk on when he went to Paris?

Yeah....the fact that it was 85 or so years ago and a lot has changed not withstanding. I've never understood why so many pilots (a minority at best) still stick to the "no radio" exception to the regulations given how inexpensive and easy to use the handhelds are.

One of the advantages of the Sport Pilot certificate is that no radio training is required. You will be better off to learn to fly first

Honestly, who the heck is doing training in a controlled environment where you have to talk on the radio constantly? I mean, I've seen it at Class D airports but for the most part outside of the pattern work at your home field, you're out in places where you don't have to be talking on the radio regardless of whether you're a sport pilot or private pilot. That said, the problem with teaching one thing and then the other is when you get a pilot who is "no radio" and tries to go into a situation where a radio is really de facto required equipment (which is to say any moderately busy field especially if there's a tower). It goes back to one of those "just because you can, doesn't mean you should".

Most of us who have been flying for very long recount incidents where pilots were either NORDO operations or were just plain choosing not to pay attention to the frequency for whatever reason. The closest I've ever come to a mid-air collision was having a jerk in a non-radio equipped Cub who apparently wasn't paying attention and decided to cut me and my CFI off in his Piper Comanche. We had made all of our calls and yet he scooted in from below and from the opposite side of the pattern and then tried to pull up to get onto the VASI glideslope.

According to the three witnesses, the Cub went somewhere between 100 and 200 feet below us as I pulled up and side-stepped to avoid him. I NEVER want to be that close to another aircraft in flight again because I can attest that, while I am a huge fan of the Piper series of aircraft for the most part, having one of the seat cushions where it doesn't belong due to "pucker factor" isn't so much fun.

To make things better, the dickhead decided to try to report us to the FSDO for (and I quote) "buzzing him" while he was on final. Luckily for us, we had two things in our favor:
1. The local FBO records the CTAF for training and safety purposes so the fact that we had followed the letter of the law to, well, the letter was without question
2. The pilot behind us in the queue to land happened to be retired FAA employee (if memory serves, he had worked for the local FSDO that handled the case; short of having a member of the NTSB as a witness you couldn't ask for better circumstances)

We, obviously, walked away with no punishment but did get a "nicely done" (for avoiding the collision) but the other pilot got a temporary suspension.

If more people treated radio communications as part of flying instead of as this unfortunate add-on, we could get past this idea of it being a burden and see it for what it is: one more tool to help us maintain situational awareness because "see and avoid" is a laughable myth and a false sense of security at best. Plus we'd have fewer pilots who start sweating bullets the moment they enter controlled airspace and maybe they wouldn't be so exhibit such reticence about asking for ATC's assistance in the event of a problem. The guy who trains out for his private pilot in Podunk, Indiana (as a proud native of Podunk, I mean no insult by this) at Mudsuck International and then tries to squeak by flying into even the relatively calm airspace around Indianapolis for a Colts game or whatever is easy to spot. They tend to freeze up, stutter and stammer. It's kind of amusing to listen to but imagining that same low hour (not necessarily the same thing as "new"; there are plenty of us who have been flying for years with very few logged hours) pilot trying to go somewhere with moderate to heavy traffic (Chicago? Atlanta? Cleveland? Charlotte?) makes me as a safety researcher stop and go "Please dear G-d, let them have better judgment than that".

The sooner we get past this "us versus them" BS between pilots and ATC (or in the case of uncontrolled fields, "real pilots don't need a radio") the sooner we start instilling in our students that Category B and C airspace shouldn't be a "no-fly zone" or that giving people some idea of where you are because amazingly enough Cub Yellow actually blends into terrain quite well given the inherent limitations of the Mark I eyeball, the sooner we prepare them for what makes flying fun: the ability to go almost anywhere. My dislike for grass strips is somewhat well known and people often remark that I'm "limiting myself" because of it. Oddly enough, these are the often same folks who will go 100 miles out of their way to avoid talking to ATC enroute or fly to a distant outlying field instead of a GA reliever airport.

You will get more flight experiance, T.O. and Landings or air work, per hour at the uncontroled field.

That depends largely on the traffic volume. There are a lot of towered fields (KHUF, KBMG and KMBS being the ones that jump to mind since I trained at and around these) where you pretty much have the place to yourself a large part of the time.

The other issue is that if you do all your training at little country fields with nothing but light GA and then try to go somewhere bigger, it sets you up for a steep learning curve when you start throwing things like turboprops, business jets, etc into the mix. Gaining experience with these under the watchful eye of an instructor is always better than trying to do it on your own. That's assuming that your instructor has the experience himself. I've run into a few who don't seem to venture any further afield than mandated by the training requirements.

It's fine if all you want to do is beat around at the local grass strip but remember that a lot of pilots these days have bigger aspirations in mind and we should try to expand our horizons as pilots not try to find ways to cut corners or impose limitations just for the sake of expediency or the comfort of those among our ranks who have a particular dislike for certain aspects of flying.

That would be a good opertunity to expand your horrizon by getting some time in the "Heavy Metal"

How do you define "heavy metal"?

Janet Davidson
04-28-2012, 06:20 AM
How do you define "heavy metal"?

I think this pretty much covers it..... :P


04-28-2012, 08:10 PM
Ever met Bruce? He's a really nice guy. Between airplanes, fencing and music, he's pretty much an all-around badass.

That's a thought! Hey Hal and Chad, how about Iron Maiden next year at Oshkosh? You think we could arrange to part a 757 on the North 40 so Bruce and his crew could "camp under the wing" of the plane that brought them? I'm pretty sure Boeing would sponsor it. LOL

By the way, if this actually happens, I call dibs on a ride in the cockpit of the aforementioned 757 as a way of saying "thanks to you Steve from all of us at the EAA for suggesting such a great idea". ;)